Suave and efficacious Kailash Gahlot, so far the third and now the most important cabinet minister in the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government, is set to take over the heavy-duty workload of deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia who resigned from his cabinet post on Tuesday after being arrested by the CBI.
Gahlot, 49, has been the face of reforms introduced by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in the transport sector, including speedy transition to electric mobility to cut down on Delhi’s major issue of air pollution, training and inducting women bus drivers and pink passes for women commuting via state-run buses, among others.
Hours after Sisodia’s resignation from the post, the AAP on Tuesday evening announced that the deputy chief minister’s portfolios will be divided between Gahlot and Raaj Kumar Anand.
After Sisodia and Satyendar Jain, who too was picked up by central investigating agencies and is in jail for the past nine months, Gahlot held the most number of and important portfolios in the city government.
Jain held eight ministries — including some of the most important departments such as health, home, public works department (PWD), water and power — which were handed over to Sisodia after his arrest. Until Tuesday, Sisodia held 18 of the 33 government portfolios.
Gahlot, who so far held six portfolios, post Sisodia’s resignation, has been handed over charge of eight more departments, taking the tally to 14. This makes him the only minister to head these many departments after Sisodia.
The six portfolios so far held by Gahlot are transport, revenue, law, administrative reforms, women and child development and information and technology. In addition to these, the minister has now been handed over the most crucial workload of Sisodia — finance, planning, PWD, power, home, water, urban development, irrigation & flood control (I&Fc) and all other departments, not specifically allotted to any minister.
Clearly, Gahlot now has his task cut out as Delhi’s 2023-24 budget is to be presented in the third week of March. With the responsibility of the finance department, it is Gahlot who will present the budget in the Delhi Assembly.
News18 had on Tuesday reported that Kejriwal, having widely speculated on his deputy’s arrest from much before, had Gahlot take part in all the budget document meetings as well as those for other crucial projects since February 19, when the first summon from the CBI was issued.
According to a senior AAP functionary, Gahlot has been trusted by the central leadership to pull off various important projects and the handling of departments successfully.
A close confidant of Kejriwal, Gahlot has been the cabinet minister for two terms, holding on to his first portfolio — public transport — since, in addition to the new ones over the years. He won his first assembly election in 2015 from West Delhi’s Najafgarh constituency.
Gahlot is a lawyer by profession and has been practising at the apex court as well as the Delhi High Court. Born into a Jat family, he belongs to Mitrau village from Najafgarh, which is home to a large number of farmers and traders, making him the party’s important connect with the rural pockets in the Capital.
Gahlot joined the Aam Aadmi Party in 2014 though he had been closely working with Kejriwal for three to four years before that. Heralding various schemes of the government, including the ambitious Electric Vehicles (EV) policy and free travel for women in state-run buses, among others, his stature within the government grew immensely during the second term, having been an important pillar and now a new power centre in the Delhi government.
However, he too has had his share of run-ins with the probe agencies. In 2018, he came under the scanner of the Income Tax department that conducted searches at various places linked to him in connection with an alleged tax evasion case.
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